MIAMI - U.S. Senator Marco Rubio continues to stand by his statement that an attack on a Republican canvasser in Hialeah was politically motivated.
According to police, last Sunday Javier Lopez Lopez and Jonathan Casanova approached Christopher Monzon who was walking on the sidewalk along E 60th Street passing out flyers Rubio and Governor Ron DeSantis.
The two men reportedly told him he could not pass them on the sidewalk because he was a Republican. An argument ensued and at one point Lopez reportedly pushed Monzon to the ground and started punching him.
Casanova also kicked Monzon in the head, according to the arrest report. After that, he reportedly went to his car and got two German shepherds, and told them to attack Monzon. Before they could neighborhood residents intervened and separated the three men.
Both men were arrested.
CBS4 first interviewed Monzon, who has alleged past connection to white supremacist groups, in 2017. We were covering a story about changing the names of street signs that honored confederate generals and a one-time leader of the KKK.
In a video from Miami's Rise News, a reporter asked Monzon whether he was a Cuban American and he replied, "Yes that's correct." He continued, "Everybody that moves here needs to conform to the South. This is federal-occupied Dixie."
Monzon was at the rally holding a confederate flag and got into a shouting match with the crowd. Police arrested Monzon and charged him with aggravated assault, inciting a riot and disorderly conduct.
On Friday, members of the Florida Democratic Party said that the Republican Party and Rubio should be distancing themselves from Monzon.
Rachelle Litt of the Florida Democratic Party told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, "He (Monzon) has a well-documented history of being tied to hatred and bigotry. The Republican Party knew this when they hired him and made him part of their staff." She said he was a member of a hate group known for anti-semitism and also had ties to the Proud Boys.
State Senator Lori Berman of Boynton Beach said, "The fact that the Republican Party paid $10,000 to someone out there canvassing who was a misogynist and a racist."
State Representative Tracie Davis of Jacksonville said "Marco Rubio failed to condemn Monzon and is defending him. The question is why."
Rabbi Mark Winer of the Florida Democratic Party said "Why are you playing footsie with a known white supremacist and racist? With your open family history you should know that when some of us are not safe, all of us are not safe."
Rubio has defended Monzon, who was wearing a Rubio campaign t-shirt when the Sunday attack happened. Police have not confirmed a motive for the violent attack.
The Federal Election Commission shows the Republican party had paid Monzon more than $7,000 for his political work.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Monzon has a troubling history of alleged extremist views.
Rubio, who is being challenged by Democrat Val Demings for the Senate seat he holds, was in West Miami to cast his ballot in the General Election. There he was asked about Monzon's ties to white supremacist organizations.
"I think it's shameful that you're focused on the victim and not on the aggressors. Do you know anything about the attackers? Do you have any questions on the attackers who are career criminals," he said.
Rubio said Monzon is the victim of a crime and he thinks he's rejected his previous views.
"That's what we want all those people who hold those views to do, to change their minds and reject them and walk away from them. He was the victim of a felony," he said.
"I don't know what this young man did in his past, he's rejected it, but I'll tell you this, it's a crime and we should be focused on the two thugs who attacked him," he added. He said "We should be focused on the two thugs who attacked him. It is ok to shame and attack a victim when he is conservative. That is disgusting and grotesque."
Rubio even brought up the attack early Friday morning on the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Rubio said, "If it was politically motivated, it was a crime. I condemn it. If it wasn't politically motivated, it is a crime and I condemn it. He was previously arrested. I am not going to bring that up. Does he deserve to be beaten at his home because he has a previous arrest a few months ago. He does not, It's a crime."
Speaking in Jacksonville on Thursday, Rubio said he trusts Monzon's statements about the attack over what he called a handwritten police report.
"All that media reporting, which is outrageous because I think it's irresponsible, is based on a police report that's handwritten. It's a preliminary report based on the interviews on the ground from a guy who just got his face pummeled. So I don't even know how much he's able to talk to the police. But I know what he's told me. I know what his father has told me," he said.
"That there was a crime committed is without question. Why it was committed? I'm going to believe him over some somebody who's willing to go in and assault someone in the streets so brutally," he added.
Monzon has a long road to recovery. His father told D'Oench that he was released from the hospital on Friday and is at home resting.
Both Casanova and Lopez have been charged with aggravated battery.
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